Published On: Tue, Feb 3rd, 2015 on 2:09 pm

Dear Eric Pickles: You must do more to tackle extremism

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Dear Eric Pickles,

We have recently seen terrible atrocities committed by the UK government in the form of transferring money from the poorest to the better off. Finding the right response to these events is a challenge for everyone. The hijacking of a great institution of the state and its committing of such heinous crimes sickens us all. Despite no government official coming out to condemn its responsibilities in pushing more Britons into poverty, we believe that such actions are affront to Britain and its values.

We are proud of the reaction of British communities to this unfair distribution of resources – through the anti-capitalism demonstrations and food banks, to name but two examples. White people from across the country have spoken out to say: not in our name.

But there is a lot more work for the government to do if we are to root out from society. We must show our young people, who are targeted, that the government has so far had nothing meaningful to offer them.

We must show our white youth defecting to the right that it is in fact selfish economics, and not migrants that is causing their unemployment. Their rights to a worthwhile life of economic prosperity and access to work are being denied by the very politicians who, instead of doing the job they were elected to do, are telling young people that it’s the migrants’ fault they can’t find a job (perhaps because this lie wins them votes?).

Every day, government officials are dining with donors, or giving millionaires a tax-cut whilst making worse the living standards of working people who are £1500 out of pocket since 2010. They are giving bankers bonuses, but putting 375,000 children in poverty, as well as 420,000 disabled people at great suffering at the hands of the bedroom tax. In almost the four years this government has been in power, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. The assault is to the extent that councils in the most deprived parts of England (generally Labour run) are to be hit hardest and fastest by local government spending cuts, whilst the largely Tory-run authorities in some of the very wealthiest parts of the country may even find themselves better off. Not to mention the fact that we were only six days into the New Year when the bosses of Britain’s biggest companies had already made more money in 2015 than most workers in the country will earn this year.

You, as a government minister, are in a unique position in our society. You have a precious opportunity, and an important responsibility: in explaining and demonstrating how there are enough resources to go round, if only the distribution were fair and if only your government was less self-interested. We believe together we have an opportunity to prevent the radicalisation of swathes of white right-wing youths.

There is a need to lay out more clearly than ever before what being a government minister means today: working in the interest of the very people who give you power and legitimacy.

Mr. Pickles, we believe the impact the rise of far-right extremism is having on our democracy is grave. And it may get out of hand if no action is taken. Following on from the statements of a certain minister for Communities and Local Government, the streets of Britain saw vigilante “Christian patrols” roaming around. This hugely undermines our democracy, as the law is no longer the sole arbiter in how our society is governed.

More fatally, young people are being radicalised by anti-migrant hate-speech, and some who went to fight abroad are now returning home with military training. The terror threat level has been raised to severe, meaning that the risk of an attack on the UK is “highly likely”, and the case of 20-year-old Ryan McGee, who made a nailbomb whilst on leave from the army, shows what could happen.

We welcome your thoughts, ideas and initiatives on how to ensure that government’s true role of serving the people triumphs over those who seek to use it to further their interests, and divide our communities as part of their strategy. Perhaps a sermon on a Thursday morning at a Meeting of the Cabinet?

Finally, if Cameron has a problem with this letter, then quite frankly he has a problem.

By Arwa Almari, West Yorkshire Racial Justice Network.

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